I heartily approve of restaurateurs who spend money where it is needed and save where it is warranted. Golconda Bowl in Hauz Khas Village is a no-frills place with minimal fuss decor. However, the airconditioning is effective on a humid afternoon and best of all, there’s a Hyderabadi chef in the kitchen, complete with the kind of copper utensils that are sold all over the old city of Hyderabad and which are not found in Delhi at any price. The result is that the food is spot on authentic and the place is as unpretentious as, say, Paradise Biryani in Hyderabad. Plus, you can have a more than decent meal at extremely down to earth prices.
Patthar ka gosht (Rs 325) are generous sized slices of lamb that have been marinated in curd and ginger-garlic paste, then grilled till scorch marks are visible. It is a robust dish, with an interesting texture and just enough spicing to enhance the meat rather than to over-season it. Gosht shikampuri kebab (Rs 250) likewise, was a finely ground mince stuffed with incredibly tiny flakes of onions and green chillies. The menu claims that the kebabs were pan-fried, but there was not a trace of oil on the plate or the palate!
Kachchey gosht ki biryani (Rs 475) is unbelievably authentic: outside Hyderabad, whoever claims that they are serving this Hyderabadi signature, usually resort to short-cuts. But cooking raw rice and raw lamb together so that both cook together, that too without the meat remaining tough or the rice becoming pulp, is an art. Visit any mid-level eating joint in Hyderabad and the rice will be formed into a tightly packed bowl, and that is exactly how my order appeared. You don’t skim off only the top layer of rice onto your plate, but dig deep into the tightly packed mass to get a cross-section of white rice, brown rice and lamb. In Hyderabadi biryani, the rice closest to the meat takes on a brown hue and is more fragrant than the white rice, but the protocol of eating is that you have to have both on your plate.
Good as the biryani was, it was overshadowed by the baghara baigan (Rs ). Made the classic way with a thick gravy of peanuts, sesame seeds and curd, it is a fairly uncomplicated vegetarian dish that should be fairly common on Delhi menus, but isn’t. The one disappointment of the meal was the bhindi gosht (Rs ). It was the only point of the meal that tasted of the three gravy trick – one ladle of tomato gravy, half a ladle of boiled onion paste and a dash of fried onions – the kind of restaurant food that has given Indian food a bad name in the first place.
Service is cheerfully clueless, that too on the day of my visit, when the full menu had not come into play. By this time, several other dishes would have been added, like dalcha and haleem. I have no doubt that the kitchen would be up to doing a grand job of both – they are, after all, quintessentially Hyderabadi culinary gems. To get this kind of food at these kind of prices outside a five star hotel can only mean one thing: that regional food is at last getting its place in the sun.
22 Hauz Khas Village
Open from: 12-3.20 and 7.30-11.30 Tuesday closed
Credit cards accepted; alcohol:not yet
Meal for two: Rs 2,000
I guess you could say that a five star hotel evolves when it is able to put together a street food festival successfully. Two hotels in Delhi had off-shoots of street food concepts happening simultaneously. Claridges, the gracious Art Deco property that has been re-done subtly has a cutting chai festival. Served in ‘local’ glasses on a wire tray, the tea is poured out from an aluminium kettle just the way it would be on the side of the road. The tea is thick and slightly flavoured with cardamom. To accompany it are pakoras or ‘bhajjias’ made from onions and green chillies fried in a batter. Served in a cone of newspaper, they go down a treat with the tea: the only incongruity is looking around at the genteel guests of the hotel sitting in Pickwicks, the all-day diner where the festival is taking place – the hotel has managed the flavours of the street perfectly to the extent that you can hardly believe you are in a five star hotel. Not even the vada pao with its customary heat of red chilli chutney or the chana jor garam dispel the myth that you are not on the streets, munching at a roadside stall.
Chef Anurudh Khanna, who has donned the mantle of Executive Chef of The Park Hotel relatively recently, is a man with a mission. Always on the lookout for a sharp, novel idea for a food promotion, he seems to have found it in Street Foods of India. Khanna lost no time in calling one chef each from the sister hotels in Kolkata, Chennai and Navi Mumbai to put together a street food festival that was far, far more than just chaat and pani puri. There was raj kachori – Delhi’s iconic tennis ball-sized ‘puri’ filled to the brim with crunchies sprinkled over with a tongue-tingling sauce that is simultaneously sweet, sour and spicy. Then there was tandoori chicken, chholey kulchey, nihari kulchey and aloo tikkie.
The Kolkata contingent had Mughlai paratha, radhabholobi with alur dum and cauliflower samosas – a uniquely Bengali invention. From the South came kuttu paratha with gravy, just as you would have it on the streets of Madurai. Idlis, medhu vadas, sundal – the festival’s menu was a masterpiece of the tried and tested as well as the unexpected. A short while ago, Crowne Plaza Today had a memorable festival called Delhi 6 – the postal area of Chandni Chowk, which is the fount of all the city’s street food. It is obvious that the public loves the juxtaposition between five star luxury and the lip-smacking tastes of the street.